#391- Gallipoli

Quick recap: The tale of two Australians who go off to fight in World War 1…..and it does not go well.

And stars a hot and sweaty Mel Gibson

Fun (?) fact: ANZAC Day was originally observed to honor the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in the Gallipoli campaign but is now a day to remember all those who died during war.

physically hot, not attractively hot. He was probably an anti-semitic jerk even back then

Thoughts and observations: 

As has become the standard PSA on this blog, war is hell. Gallipoli is no exception of course, so let’s see just how hellish the movie gets:

  • takes place during World War 1, one of the most hellish wars to date (1 POINT)
  • The characters are fictional but I got attached nonetheless and didn’t want anyone to die (1/2 POINT)
  • One of those characters was played by Mel Gibson (-5 POINTS)
  • The actual battle scene only takes place the last 20 minutes or so of the film (-1 POINT)
  • There are SO MANY dead bodies and the death is realistic (2 POINTS)
  • The English bungle everything and have Australian blood on their hands (1 POINT)
  • The training scenes take place in Cairo, against the backdrop of the pyramids ( beautiful setting but worth 0 POINTS)
  • The final scene is of the main character dying a most honorable death (3 POINTS)

So, based on the point system I created just this very second, Galipoli is certified ‘pretty freaking hellish’.

I was surprised by how much time was spent on getting to know the characters and learning about their love of sprinting. I kept wondering when it would be important to the battle and it definitely paid off in the final few scenes. And by saving the gory stuff for the very end, I was lured into a false sense of security that maybe this would be a successful battle and everyone would be ok. Like I said, pretty freaking hellish.

Watchability score: 4/5. Also some choice nudity if that is your thing

Up next: Journey to Italy

 

 

#389- Chimes at Midnight

Quick recap: Prince Hal loves his good buddy Falstaff until it’s time to become king and then he completely breaks off the friendship.

Fun (?) fact: Orson Welles had to actually slim down for the role of Falstaff.

Thoughts and observations:

Shakespearian language is beautiful, I suppose, except that I only understood about 10% of the movie. Maybe 15% if I’m feeling generous. To make matters worse, there wasn’t a subtitles option so I had to listen carefully like some commoner. About halfway through the movie I decided to stop trying to pay attention to what was said and instead treat Chimes at Midnight as if it were a silent film or a film in another language. And it worked, for the most part. I read the synopsis afterward, quite proud of myself for getting the gist of the movie.

But only getting the gist of a movie does not a good movie make. Was it well acted? Sure! Did the music set the tone? Definitely! Was the setting appropriate for the plot? Of course. But I just don’t see the point of ANOTHER film based on Shakespeare. This movie was made in 1965, coming right after several versions of Shakespeare plays and right before many, many more. Now, I’m a bit biased in this regard because literally the only version I have every enjoyed is Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Minus the battle scene, which I’m still not entirely sure who was fighting who, making a film version didn’t add to the play at all. Same costumes as I’m accustomed to, same stale language, same pompous acting. And from the research I did (which was very little) really the only thing people loved was how fat Orson Welles was. If that’s the only criteria here, then this movie is a MASTERPIECE. I have no idea how Welles was able to move around and didn’t just keel over the second the director yelled, ‘cut!’. He actually went on to live another 20 years, which I’m more impressed about than anything else I learned from this movie.

 

Watchability score: 2/5. There are plenty of other films to watch if you want to see kings doing king things.

Up next: The Nutty Professor

#363- The Killing Fields

Quick recap: As I may have mentioned one or two times before, war is hell. Journalist Sydney Schanberg is momentarily stuck in Cambodia during the mass murder cleansing campaign ‘Year Zero’ along with his friend and translator, Dith Pran. While Schanberg is eventually rescued, Pran, a native Cambodian, is left to fend for himself in a country now hostile to its citizens. OH! AND THIS IS A STORY BASED ON TRUE EVENTS.

I made the mistake of Googling ‘The Killing Fields’ . Don’t do that.

Fun (?) fact: Haing S. Ngor, the actor who played Dith Pran has a tragic story that almost rivals the one told in the movie. His wife died during childbirth during the Cambodian cleansing campaign because even though her husband was a doctor, seeking his help would mean the Khmer Rouge finding out about him and murdering him. Ngor eventually escaped to America and was chosen to play Pran. He was later murdered in what many people believe to be a revenge killing for speaking out against the Cambodian atrocities.

My thoughts: Time to let my American ignorance shine through as I admit to knowing next to nothing about Cambodia’s history before this movie. I had heard of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge but I had no idea how evil it all was. The killing Fields is a tough movie to stomach for several reasons, but for me there is a lot of guilt and anger that this piece of history was never discussed or mentioned in school. As evidenced from this movie, though, Americans alive while this happened weren’t aware of the atrocity either. The final scene of the movie explains that as of 1984, the film’s release, Cambodia was still recovering. Even today, there are remains that have yet to be identified.

History lesson aside, This movie was just as powerful as I expected it to be. The Killing Fields is told in two parts: the first part is about Sydney Schanberg and his crew trying to make it out of Cambodia and the second part focuses on Dith Pran’s struggle to survive as he is left behind. As much as I liked Schanberg, the performance felt a little heavy handed at times. It never crossed over into him being the victim thankfully but it got close several times. Pran’s part of the film had my full attention. The real Pran coined the term ‘Killing Fields’ when he stumbled into a body of water lined with thousands of bodies, people murdered from the regime. That scene has stuck with me several days later.

What I appreciate most about this movie is that it never feels sanctimonious or preachy about the plight of the Cambodians. The story focuses on these two friends and how they navigated such a terrible time in our world’s history. Looking at the suffering close up really drives home how horrible it all was and I was better able to grasp the atrocities. The conflict reminds me a lot of Syria and the images shown daily of the refugees and dead children. Will we hear of stories like this in 10 years and feel the same shame and regret that we didn’t pay attention sooner? Time will tell.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Ikiru

 

 

#334- Night and Fog

Quick recap: It’s a documentary about the Holocaust.

This probably won’t be a surprise, but don’t expect much humor in this review. Hopefully your expectations weren’t that high to begin with.

Fun (?) fact: Director Alain Resnais was very careful to not use the word ‘Jew’ when referring to victims of the holocaust because he wanted to create something that condemned genocide altogether. He felt that using the term, although true, might lead people to believe the Holocaust was an isolated event when in fact, could easily happen to any group of people.

My thoughts:  It has recently come to my attention that I’m not the most fun person to be around. That’s not to say I don’t have other great qualities, but I don’t think ‘bubbly’ comes to mind when most people describe me. Case in point, I chose to spend my spring break watching a film about the Holocaust and my Friday night recapping the horrible things I saw.

For a documentary about the Holocaust, this was every bit as sad and horrifying as I expected it to be, and yet there were still parts I found shocking. As the narrator said, it’s unfathomable. Night and Fog was filmed in 1955, roughly 10 years after the war ended. Resnais interspersed images of the abandoned concentration camps with real footage of the prisoners and even then everything felt surreal and almost unbelievable. As the narrator says, images and film can only show so much. It is impossible to truly understand the constant fear and apprehension felt by everyone.

For a little 30 minute film, there were so many points touched on. Resnais said he wanted to make the film as an allegory for the situation going on with France and Algeria at the time, but that sentiment could be applied for any conflict. It’s depressing to think that lessons still haven’t been learned. Genocides have happened since then, not to mention the gradual embrace of the Nazi party again. It took everything to not turn away when the images of bulldozers pushing bodies into mass graves came on the screen, but it’s something that needs to be seen. Even in 1955, Resnais was already worried that people were becoming complacent again. The narrator (whose script was written by Jean Cayrol, a concentration camp survivor), mentions people taking pictures in front of crematoriums and selling the images as postcards. The most frustrating part of the film, though, was to see the SS officers deny any wrongdoing and any responsibility whatsoever. It is alluded to the fact that so many of these camps are situated just outside of big cities, implying entire nations of people who knew what was going on. And still, it happened. And still, it continues to happen.

Final review: 5/5. Essential viewing.

Up next: High Noon